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German First-Growth Concept Receives High-Level Attention

Bruce Sanderson
Posted: March 31, 1999

In Germany, a proposed system of classifying vineyards according to quality, known as "Erstes Gewachs" or "First Growth," received a boost last week. Chancellor Gerhard Schroder served Weingut Georg Breuer's Riesling Rheingau Rauenthal Nonnenberg 1997 First Growth at a gala dinner in Berlin for heads of state and prime ministers of the European Union.

"The Chancellery is a customer of ours, but this is the first time they have used this wine," said Bernhard Breuer, owner of Weingut Georg Breuer.

Since the early 1990s, several leading estates in Germany have been pushing for a vineyard-based classification system within their respective regions, similar to the classification in the Burgundy region of France. In the Rheingau, the proposed system is loosely based on the taxation rates assessed to vineyards in the last century, as better sites paid higher rates.

Currently, German wine authorities do not recognize vineyard classifications or the use of "Erstes Gewachs" on labels, and some producers are opposed to the idea. In the existing wine law, quality is defined as ripeness at harvest, measured as the density of sugar in the grape must. The vineyard-based system would simply augment the current law.

"The mass-producing wine industry is reluctant," said Breuer, "but you must promote the flagship wines to achieve success in the market."

Other recent German wine news:

  • February 15, 1999
    Saar Vineyard Revival Benefits Fans Of Mature German Riesling

  • December 16, 1998
    German Vintners Fined for Using Improper Grape Sources

  • October 10, 1997
    New Vineyard Classification in Germany's Nahe Region

    For recent ratings of German wines:

  • February 28, 1999
    The New Golden Age of Riesling

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